thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven

Saint Thomas Aquinas described the Lord’s Prayer as the most perfect of prayers….”In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them.”[1]

Thy Kingdom Come

Heaven on Earth

Heaven on Earth

The Lord’s prayer contains seven petitions, seven things we can rightly desire. The second petition, “Thy Kingdom come,” we acknowledge our hope and fervent desire to be counted among those who believe in his divine mercy and love when the final coming of his reign draws near. “Only a pure soul can boldly say: ‘Thy kingdom come.’ One who has heard Paul say, ‘Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies,’ and has purified himself in action, thought, and word will say to God: ‘Thy kingdom come![2]

There is a Jewish prayer that follows a similar thought and that is “May he establish his Kingdom during your life and during your days.” When we profess our willingness and our hope for the coming of his kingdom, we are in a very direct way stating our preparedness for the end of days, for judgment. That is why St. Cyril tells us that only a pure soul can boldly say “Thy kingdom come.”

Jesus often spoke of the Kingdom of God as if those to whom he was speaking were intimately familiar with the concept. The Hebrew word malkuth generally was used to describe a reign, dominion, or rule but it could also be used to mean the realm over which a reign is exercised. When malkuth is used referring to God, it almost always is used to describe his authority or his heavenly kingship.

For the Hebrews, the request for God’s kingdom to come was meant quite literally: they believed that the Messiah would come who would inaugurate an earthly kingdom of God. There are generally two prevailing thoughts concerning the coming of God’s kingdom: the first sees the kingdom as a divine gift, a gift to be prayed for and not by human achievement, while the second sees the coming of the kingdom as essentially the result of human endeavor, by the faithful working to create a better world. In truth, neither view offers an easily acceptable view on the kingdom that is to come.

The problem with both views is that they are incomplete. Sure, the kingdom can be viewed as a divine gift to be prayed for, for it is that, yet it is so much more. Nowhere does the idea of the kingdom as a gift attempt to describe the who, what, where, or how of the kingdom. And the second doesn’t do much better. The simplistic and limited descriptions leave us with more questions than answers. Perhaps the more important question we should ask is “how do we prepare for that which we are calling upon God to deliver, his kingdom?” What must we do to insure a seat at the table of the Lord? What must we do to be a “pure soul” when God’s kingdom comes?

We already know what we must do for Jesus has clearly told us, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcome me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’[3]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “By a discernment according to the Spirit, Christians have to distinguish between the growth of the Reign of God and the progress of the culture and society in which they are involved. This distinction is not a separation. Man’s vocation to eternal life does not suppress, but actually reinforces, his duty to put into action in this world the energies and means received from the Creator to serve justice and peace.”[4]

Thy Will Be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven

All too often far too many of us find ourselves believing that our job here on earth is to simply prepare ourselves for heaven—such as the all too common protestant understanding of salvation—and then coast through this life until it is time to meet our heavenly Father.  But Jesus never taught us to pray, “Get me out of here Lord so I can be in heaven with you.” His prayer was, “Lord, bring a little bit of heaven to this valley of tears. Show us how to be heavenly here on this earth.” The third petition, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is our plea to our Father and his desire for us to bring heaven and earth closer together, for all men to do his will here and now rather than waiting to do so when we come into his glory.

All Christians believe that Jesus, the Son of God, came into this world to save us from the original sin of our first parents and by doing so reopened the gates of heaven for all of mankind. Virtually all Christian churches agree that God came into this world to save us from the consequences of sin which is eternal death. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”[5]

While there is general agreement on God’s plan to ‘save’ us, there is little agreement as to who can and will be saved or even how salvation might or can be attained. As is often the case when it comes to man and religion, the devil is in the details, and in any discussion concerning salvation, the details are the loci for many significantly divergent points of view and at times vitriolic and bitter disagreements.

Before traipsing further into what is most assuredly bound to be a contentious quagmire of strongly held beliefs, let us dissect that first question “Have you been saved?” a bit. Within this seemingly simple question lies the direct implication that salvation is a singular event that has no subsequent consequences that might result in any future loss of one’s salvific status. In other words, say yes now and be saved forever, no matter how sinful one might be in the future. “Hallelujah! I have been saved! Let the sinning begin.”

Somehow I’m not quite convinced that this is what God has in mind. There has to be a bit more to it than that. And there is. There are three pillars or elements that must be present for salvation to be possible and for us to attain it, and they are grace, faith, and works. And it is that nasty auxiliary verb ‘must’ where the battle has been waging, certainly since the Protestant Reformation in 1517, but in reality, since the very beginnings of Christ’s church.

To be saved, one must stand firmly and sinless before God and that requires a solid stable foundation. No one can stand on a one- or two-legged stool, but can easily stand on one with three legs. Thus to be able to stand before God at Parousia justified, one must consider the three pillars of salvation throughout the entirety of one’s life.

We were created by God in the image of the Divine, indivisibly corporeal and spiritual creatures, tangible and intangible, material and immaterial, mortal and immortal. We do not have two natures but rather the union of our body and soul form a single nature: “Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity.[6]The [Catholic] Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents – and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.[7]

God is the uncreated, infinite Creator of all creation; all of creation has been willed into being by God. God has no beginning but we do; we began when God willed our unity (body and soul) into existence. Death separates our immortal soul from our mortal body, at least temporarily, for they “will be reunited at the final Resurrection” at which time we will live forever either wrapped within or excluded from God’s presence. Whether we will spend eternity with God depends entirely on the sanctity of our soul at the end of our mortal life here on this earth.

To attain salvation, to be saved, our souls must be holy, filled with sanctifying grace and fully prepared for a supernatural life in perfect and absolute union with God. We are not born with soul sanctified. Our concupiscence, that is our inclination to sin, can result in the loss of sanctification. To be sanctified, to fill our soul with holiness, we must first reconcile ourselves with God for all deadly or mortal sins.

While our soul will never cease to exist it can experience spiritual death and a soul that is spiritually dead cannot and will not see God. Through the mercy and grace of God we can respond to His gift of actual grace and regain the supernatural life of the soul through genuine and contrite reconciliation.

Another word for sanctification, which is often used by our Protestant brothers and sisters, is justification. St. Paul wrote “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? … but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”[8] Protestants often claim that justification is a mere rhetorical device, a simple declaration by God that one is abruptly “justified.” Once you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you are now “justified.” Even though your soul remains unchanged, perhaps even spiritually dead, you have been saved and are on the expressway to heaven. You are still expected to seek sanctification, but whether you achieve any degree of holiness is irrelevant since you have been justified and have therefore been saved.

This is an unfortunate scam since this places God at the center of a lie: God says the sinner is justified when it really isn’t the case at all. Justification without sanctification is de facto impossible, no less so than God prevaricating. Sanctification is necessary for justification; without sanctification, justification is lost and the soul spiritually dead.

God, our Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”[9] He loves all his creation and does not wish that any should perish. Jesus repeatedly commanded his disciples and us to “love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”[10] So when we pray that God’s will be done we ought to recognize and acknowledge what his will is, what he wants us to do.

God has shown us what he so fervently desires, his will for us, for he did so through his only Son, Jesus Christ. “He has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ . . . to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will.”[11] God is Love and he loves each and every one of us. All he asks is for us to love him in return and to love our neighbors as ourselves. God’s will: love him, love his creation.

In Christ, and through his human will, the will of the Father has been perfectly fulfilled once for all. Jesus said on entering into this world: ‘Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.’ Only Jesus can say: ‘I always do what is pleasing to him.’ In the prayer of his agony, he consents totally to this will: ‘not my will, but yours be done.’ For this reason Jesus ‘gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.’ ‘And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.’[12]

’Although he was a Son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered.’ How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father.”[13]

From the early Church fathers we can discover great insight into how we ought to know the Father’s will. Origen tells us that “In committing ourselves to [Christ], we can become one spirit with him, and thereby accomplish his will, in such wise that it will be perfect on earth as it is in heaven.”[14]

And St. John Chrysostom points out that we are praying that the entire world do his will, not just you or me. “Consider how Jesus Christ] teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say ‘thy will be done in me or in us,’ but ‘on earth,’ the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven.[15]

Jesus taught us that through prayer we could discern God’s will for us and find the strength and determination to do what he desires. And it is through Jesus Christ that we can come to the Father and enter into the kingdom of heaven. But Jesus admonishes us to do so with humility and love for he warns us that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’[16]

And so, thus we pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.


[1] CCC § 2541.
[2] CCC § 2819.
[3] Mt 25:31-40.
[4] CCC § 2820.
[5] Jn 3:16.
[6] Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes: Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, Chapter I, §14, December 7, 1965.
[7] CCC § 366.
[8] 1 Cor 9:11.
[9] 1 Tim 2:3-4.
[10] Jn 13:34.
[11] Eph 1:9-11.
[12] CCC § 2824.
[13] CCC § 2825.
[14] Origen, De orat. 26: pg 11, 501B.
[15] St. John Chrysostom, Hom. In Mt. 19, 5: pg 57, 280.
[16] Mt 7:21-23.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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